Poem in Which I Never Leap Home

And then I’m a test pilot.

I’m set inside this head, inside this helmet,

scrabbling at the panels,

trying to operate my hands.


Each time, lids blink a new rouge;

fingers sift a strange coiffure.

I feel my skull like a path in the dark –

buzzcut, pincurled, bald.


It is a strange brand of drag.

The skins I’ve pinned and bulldog-clipped to fit –

hermit crab in a soda can.

And when I’ve got it right I have to go.


The time I was a society heiress,

I almost had it cracked – the clutch,

the lung-smothering dress,

the infernal heel, toe, heel, toe,


when I leapt to a Texas vet, wrestling piglets.

And I was a professor, elbow-patched and sweaty;

a scribe; a night club dancer.

A drag racer; pitcher; several lovers – oh, boy.


The way I worked them. Each body

littered with instincts.

Each one tailored to the last to go.

I had to adapt. I had to be less myself.


I think about the leap home;

the heart I feel convulsing being my own.

I find the lever and the plane levels.

I wonder if I’d know.


Alex Bell


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